Weekend Shenanigans


Saturday morning started with one thing going wrong after another. I awoke in a foul mood and no matter how I tried to shake it, the little things kept building and building — Emil disappearing to make messes upstairs instead of getting dressed, coming downstairs with a t-shirt and completely naked otherwise while Oliver and Milo wrestled and squealed near the front door, seemingly deaf to my polite requests to get out the front door. The dog threw up on the floor while I packed apple slices and yogurt and cold pizza into the lunch bag and Emil returned downstairs with a t-shirt and one sock on, completely naked otherwise. Coffee helped, but the entire cup of hot chocolate dropped right outside the door onto the sidewalk did not. Nearly running out of gas and hoping we were heading in the right direction, hoping not to be stranded on the side of a country road at 8:30am with Andrew out of town while Oliver whined about how he wanted to go to the playground, not to the nature reserve… none of that helped.

But 40 minutes later, fresh cool air and warm sunshine, fields of golden grass and ponds of shining ice surrounded us and the entire morning took a pleasant turn for the better. Like magic.


We were the first people there, racing across fields to the iced-over pond, ice-skating on a puddle and trying to break the pond ice with larger and larger stones thrown high into the air across the pond. The sun grew warmer and warmer until we no longer had to continue moving to keep warm. DSC_0044DSC_0061DSC_0063DSC_0065DSC_0069DSC_0074DSC_0080DSC_0082

We wandered and explored for hours, bird-watching and crossing logs and climbing, running, jumping, and building. DSC_0084DSC_0100DSC_0103DSC_0108DSC_0110DSC_0114DSC_0141DSC_0152DSC_0157DSC_0164DSC_0166DSC_0170DSC_0188DSC_0172

We met a wild turkey and collected feathers. We ate snacks and headed back down to the ice, and I found a seat on a sun-warmed stone near the boys when they found their task: making an “ice factory” by breaking up the thick chunks of ice with a long strong stick, passing the chunk to the next brother by sliding it across the icy pond, then passing it on the the brother closest to shore, who would pick up the ice and carry each chunk to the collecting stone, where the pile grew and grew until the factory’s business was booming.


This was the point when I was very aware of the push to keep moving. There was a lot we had yet to see in the reserve, yet it was clear how engaged and happy the boys were to stay and continue their game. I kept my mouth closed and tried to blend into the background so they could stay and continue on, letting the sun warm my face and just enjoying the beauty of the day. It was so wonderful. DSC_0124And it wasn’t until two hours later, when Emil accidentally stepped right into the icy water up to his knee that we had to move on, but this time content and absolutely nature-high from our much-needed time outside. On the drive home, with windows cracked and country-air flowing into the van, from the back, “Mama, this was the best day of my life.”

13 thoughts on “Weekend Shenanigans”
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  1. What beautiful words to hear from Emil. And I love that you were able to recognize the need to stop and let them be rather than pushing forward. I find myself having to do that at times as well and yours is a good reminder to be mindful of such and to let them lead the way whenever possible, to choose their own adventure rather than the one we might have had in mind.

  2. Hi there,

    “Aware of the push to keep moving”… I’m taken with this point. Both you observing the feeling and also the feeling! I find fighting this urge a lot and it is so strange… At the playground, where there is clearly no agenda, I can hear myself pushing my 2-year old to the next thing (“how about that slide? how about the bars?”). Am I afraid he’ll get bored if I don’t compel his attention to the next thing? And, the irony is of course, I hope to foster his ability to sit with things for longer, imagination, and that deeper kind of play I enjoyed as a kid (largely unsupervised by my mother!).

  3. We group camp with several families in the spring and the fall. This post reminded me of those weekends. We go on a group hike on Saturday morning, with no agenda or set time frame (other than lunch hunger), and then we usually find a body of water for the rest of the day. The adults relax and soak up the sun, but the kids always set to “work”. They spend hours doing this work – catching tadpoles and recreating streams and pools in the sand, or building some sort of a dam in the water, or creating huge piles of various foraged collections.

    I can remember being like that at the ocean to, spending hours tending to one long water channel or lining up shells in radial patterns. We are never rushed in those places. It’s the not rushing on an everyday Saturday that’s a little bit tougher, and I have to be more mindful of that when I’m doing it.

    We love to frequent the garden, but one thing I’ve learned to do is to say that we’re going to the “japanese garden” or the “temperate garden” or the “shade garden” – like a mini destination within the larger place. I think it’s perfectly okay to just wander too, but I think some of our best times at the garden have been when we head straight towards a certain part and then park ourselves there for a few hours instead of taking the grand tour. On hot, quiet days, we park in front of a fountain, and draw on the stones with water and sticks for hours.

  4. This was a masterfully composed piece and I read and reread it several times because so many elements resonated with me.

    First, your boys are becoming gorgeous creatures. Truly, resplendently beautiful men. They are so different than when I first met them.

    Second, I have had so many of these mornings lately – mostly because my house is in a state of chaos with construction everywhere. I, as the keeper of the manner, am struggling to ensure people are fed and clothed with clean things and have their needs met without widdling myself into the ether. So many mornings I have been short-tempered, exhausted, resentful and frazzled. Today, I sat in the car and screamed with the boys inside because we could’nt find Jack’s coat and we were late and Auggie spilled his drink on himself. And I was immediately remorseful. I am struggling to forgive myself for it.

    And finally, as the others have mentioned, “aware of the need to push forward” both in resilience and as a nagging needless tow of life made me burst into tears. Sometimes, Lauren, I wonder what I would do without your wisdom.

  5. Esther, I was completely and totally the same way when my oldest, Milo, was two. I think some of it had to do with helping the time pass faster; when he was young, it was just the two of us all day every day and I think I needed the stimulation more than he did! I love how you reference the “deeper kind of play” you had as a kid, and how much you clearly value that. It is so true, and when I observe my kids engaging in that deeper play, they are absolutely glowing with happiness. It is a daily (hourly) exercise to be aware of that and to leave them alone!

  6. Kristin,

    Your group camping experiences sound divine! I often experience the same thing with my kids on vacations in nature — that they work, work, work so hard and if we let them, we can benefit from the not working that we adults need so much! Funny how that works, the kids want to work, the adults want to be still!

    I do love your idea to focus on one small part of the garden. We will be doing that this summer for sure.

  7. Maggie, Maggie, Maggie! Your words bring me to tears! I think we are more alike than you know. There are so many days like that for us — the loss of temper (on my part, a constant struggle), the frustrated rushing and trying to get out the door, the need to “push forward” in life not just in parenting. Don’t beat yourself up, friend! I can’t wait to see you soon. 🙂

  8. The log crossing looked like it came from a fairy tale. I loved how you allowed the time of exploration without an agenda, and the photograph of the sun across your face is soft and light, and so peaceful. I admire how you didn’t just quit in the midst of the dog throw up, spilled hot chocolate, and whining desires to go another direction. When a mommy is able to go forward with love (and a little tongue bleeding because of biting it so hard!), magic happens.

    And look…the best day of my life…indeed.

  9. Aw, Annie, thank you! And trust me, there were many many moments when I almost threw in the towel… glad I didn’t! Hope Harrison and Mina are doing well!

  10. I love this post. This feels like my life right now in general… one minute everything is going to shit (and why do the animals always have to pile it on at the worst moment?), and then somehow everything rights itself and I feel genuinely moved by how lucky I am and the beauty of everyday.

    I think slowing down was the biggest privilege of having a before school age baby. During those years, I felt increadably present without any of that urgency to ‘press on’. Now that we have more places to be and our schedules are more defined, I have to fight the feeling to move things along constantly. It also makes me realize how different the babyhood of a first (or only) child is than all the subsequent children.

    Beautiful pictures and words!

  11. Hello Lauren, just wanted to let you know I like your stories and tips very much! I also have three boys (6, 4 and 2) and I recognize everything you write about! I’m also blogging on Playing outside, let them explore their abilities and their world! Keep up the good work! Anna (The Netherlands)

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